A to Z April Challenge
I’ll never forget my first nightmare. It was around first grade age. I went to bed feeling fine then suddenly I was shrinking in a growing hospital bed in a narrow room growing taller. I don’t think I can ever forget the images– they were so haunting, but the feeling that accompanied the visions was the worst. As familiar faces scrambled to fill the room with their smiles growing long as the room grew tall, I continued to shrink in my growing bed while they shouted at me.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
They repeated this over and over as everything about them lengthened. Drenched in a hot, frightened sweat I witnessed the bed grow so long and wide that a hump formed in the middle. Fear, panic, confusion, and the weight of doom pulled me into the mattress where I tried to raise my screams for help above the ghastly howls warning of the new year and that was when my mother woke me up. I had a high fever and would sleep for the next two days on the couch (signs of seizure but mom had no way to know that).
I started having nightmares I was on train tracks that ran alongside a lake. The scenery is surreal and the feeling at the beginning is always peaceful and delightful. I’m following the tracks beneath a blue sky, hands in my pockets. Tall wisps of grass sway gently alongside the tracks. I hear the round stones native to the area rubbing against the ballast beneath my feet as I tread along happily, filled with content, enjoying this afternoon.
A brown two story lake house appears on my left and a dense forest appears before me. My heartbeat quickens and my palms are sweating outside of their pockets. There’s someone behind me. I don’t turn to look, I never turn to look, but I know he is there and I know he’s getting closer. The first few times, I tried to run but it’s always the nightmarishly slow run; the one where one side of your body doesn’t pull its weight (coincidence it’s always my left side that’s slow in my dreams? or a subconscious warning?). My foot slips on the smooth surface of rocks as I eyeball the dark shadows just ahead of me. If I could just-get-moving…
I turn to the lake house. The second I give up on the forest, even while still in struggling track meet take-off position, I can move easily to my left, down a brief slope and into the house. I dodge the corners of furniture dressed in white linen like a pro running back avoiding defensive attacks as I head for the stairs. Nothing happens after this that I can remember. I think in one of the earlier versions I heard the chaser enter.
Once, I tried to keep heading for the trees; I woke up, that was all. The last time, I didn’t even bother doing anything because the second I was on those tracks it was like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
All I did was wake up, yet again. I had this nightmare enough times that it’s now just a dream. The fear of it left over a decade ago. It’s like once I try to peel at it’s old wallpaper a little bit, it gets scared and kicks me out.
The dreams became more vivid in my early teens. I started embracing them. As scary as they were, they were the best because the details were curiously particular. Like clouds being wildly defined, grass impossibly green, and noises insanely accurate. Eventually it’s art only I can experience. The emotions endured in nightmares are personal and deeply affecting; how could one not appreciate that after learning there is no escape from it? And so began my love affair with dreams and nightmares.
I’ll never forget my first apocalypse related dream. These are my favorites though I have not had many since the AVM was removed. I’m always in the same setting as this first one: a playground. The sky is on fire but not the horizon. There’s a thin blue line between the treetops in the distance and the sheath of red hot fire above me. I have a stick or spear and I’m fighting little alien people as I fight my way to the jungle gym that’s in the shape of a fire truck. I’m like 9 and I’m stabbing little alien people in the face and chest, screaming like Xena as I go.
It’s exciting, to say the least. It doesn’t matter where the dream ends in it’s story because I had to wake up; I always feel proud and accomplished, like a fighter. There are so many of these “nightmares” that I remember from decades ago that I would never admit this outside of an anonymous blog. The best one was a crazy apocalyptic storm induced by what I think was a pissed off Mother Nature. It was insane. My blood was pumping. Thinking about it now, trying to recall details to share, gets my blood moving.
It started in the house I lived in at the time. It literally sat on cinder blocks. In the dream, as the wind of the forecasted storm began to whip around us, mom started to worry about our house getting picked up from it’s blocks and moved down the street. I ran to the bathroom to see from a small window closer to the ceiling than the floor. My fingers gripped the tiled shelf beneath the window as my wide eyes stared up at gray swirls mixing with the white clouds of our once sunny afternoon. The swirl bulged and billowed until an arm formed followed by a trunk and a leg. As the head started to appear, a classmate from school magically appeared beside me. He started to explain how he was in the neighborhood and knew I had a bathroom with a window.
Loud hums and buzzes vibrated through the air around us, shaking the house. I looked to the window and saw the tops of the trees whipping around as if trying to swat away a horde of gnats with every branch and twig on every limb. I saw papers, pets and people flying through the air and just as a gray cloud hand reached down from the tumultuous storm in the sky, I woke up with an adrenaline rush like I had never experienced. I don’t think I’ll ever figure out why I dreamt a classmate knew about my bathrooms window.
The ones I don’t like are the ones where I’m not fighting or surviving alone. I have nightmares that wake me up so frozen in fear I can’t move. I’m too afraid to breathe, to look around…to reach for Kasper. Sometimes I’m so filled with dread from these nightmares that I can’t function properly. Flashes of pained faces, the smell of wet dirt and the sound of cries in the dark distance haunt me for days after a real nightmare. Sometimes it’s because I couldn’t finish the dream and feel like the suffering is continuing while I’m living in a different reality.
Sometimes I wake filled with dread because I couldn’t finish the dream and the guy that I have fallen in love with in these dreams as we fought together didn’t wake up with me. It’s heartbreaking and I’m not sure what’s worse: that I’m 32 and sad the guy in my dream got left behind; or, that I’m 32 and still dream of the same guy that doesn’t have a face. I don’t know who he is but he’s there…still. When he appears we are so madly in love even the apocalypse couldn’t separate us. In one dream we lived with our children in a tree. A tree! And when I woke up in my bed, in my apartment, with no deadly virus or smoke thickening our polluted air, I was genuinely sad to find Kasper beside me. I love my husband, life or death, but he doesn’t stir in me the unrealistic, fantastical storm created by the spiritual bonding of love and lust as this faceless essence of a man in my dreams does.
And that’s just sad